This iPhoneless Life #2 – Podcasts: Capture & Sync

March 12, 2009

iPod Having decided to try using my Windows Mobile 6 PDA-phone as a combined mobile phone and media player, in the manner of an iPhone, the first challenge was to turn it into a viable podcast player. I listen to 10 hours of podcasts a week (mostly while commuting in the car). If I couldn’t get my WM6 phone (O2’s rebrand of the HTC TyTN II) to work as a practical podcast playing device then the experiment would be over more or less before it started.

The first and not inconsiderable hurdle is that the Windows equivalent of iTunes, Windows Media Player, offers no support at all for podcasts. That is, there is no mechanism in WMP for subscription to and downloading of podcasts, which means there is no choice but to use other software for podcast capture.

I was casting around for suitable podcast software when I came across the idea of simply continuing to use iTunes. It’s obvious really. While you can’t use iTunes to synchronise podcasts with a WM6 device you can still use it to subscribe to and capture episodes of your chosen podcasts. They still end up in a folder on your PC so why switch to a different, unfamiliar and most likely inferior podcast client? All you then need to do is ensure that WMP includes that folder within its library, so each new podcast episode is available from within WMP as soon as iTunes has delivered it. You can then use WMP to synchronise the podcasts with your WM6 phone.

I noted that iTunes downloads all podcasts to the C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Podcasts folder, where “username” refers to your chosen Windows user account name. Accordingly, that folder needs to be “watched” for new content (and deletion of content) by WMP.

This is simple to arrange. In WMP, select the “Add to Library…” option from the Library drop-down menu. This brings up the Add To Library dialog box. Click the “Add…” button then select the iTunes podcast folder.  In fact, you may as well go up a level and select the “iTunes Music” folder, which includes the Podcasts folder, so that all your iTunes music files are available within WMP as well.

The next step is to create an Auto Playlist, which is the WMP equivalent of the iTunes Smart Playlist. Click File > Create Auto Playlist. You then proceed to name the playlist “podcasts” and add filter criteria to select the relevant file locations and file types as shown below:

I first added a set of criteria to pick out all mp3 files whose pathname contained “Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Podcasts” so that only audio podcasts would be included in my playlist.  This involves clicking on the topmost green plus sign.  From the drop-down select “More…” then “File Name”, then on “click to set” to enter the partial folder path as shown. Click on the green plus below the filter criterion you have just created, select “File Type” then “click to set” to bring up a drop-down of available file types. Choose mp3.

I recommend also including files from the path “Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Downloads\Podcasts” because some podcasts end up stuck there, at least temporarily. To do this click on the “And also include” option and choose “Music in my library”.  This allows you to specify a further set of criteria for inclusion of media files.  Proceed as above but specifying the partial folder path including “Downloads”.

All that is left is to set up the device synchronisation to include the podcasts playlist.  The device itself and the storage card appear on WMP as separate devices.  I synchronise with the “storage card” device.

With the phone connected to the PC via the USB cable, bring up the Sync drop-down menu, click on “storage card” and select “Set Up Sync…”. The following dialog box appears:

You need to ensure that “podcasts” is added to the list of playlists to sync, as shown. You should also use Sync > Storage Card > Advanced Options to arrange that syncing takes place automatically when your phone is connected.

So far as this goes, it works perfectly well. In part #3 of this mini-series I’m going to look at how to get the podcasts to play in the right order on the phone and other practical issues.

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  1. Hi there

    I too feel that you should try and use native windows mobile applications. (See http://windowsmobile.uservoice.com/pages/general
    ability for media player to save position btwn sessions)

    That said, I seriously suggest that you investigate BeyondPod (http://www.beyondpod.mobi/).

    Kind regards

    • I have come across WM apps that save your place in podcasts etc. So far I’ve managed without.

      Note that post #3 of this series is now out.

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